Looking back on the anniversary

This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Yukon Conservation Society’s “Created at the Canyon,” a live multi-media art event celebrating the creative process of local artists. Beginning in 2012 as “Painting the Trails” and then “Miles Canyon in Art,” it was finally renamed “Created at the Canyon” in 2016. In the last decade, 42 artists working with a plethora of mediums have come together to create. With every artist bringing their unique perspective, background, skill set, media and interpretation of this natural geological landmark, each piece is as distinct as the next. Stationed along the trail system from Miles Canyon to Canyon City, artists bring along every creative tool imaginable to bring their creative interpretations to life.

Rich details inspire the senses here, like the grandeur of towering basalt columns plunging into the turquoise river below, luminescent with rock flour carried from the Cascade mountains. Others are more minute, such as a rainbow of lichen speckling the canyon walls, or the earthy fragrance of the nearby forest and wildflowers. Wildlife like river otters interact with their natural habitat. And, of course, people are and always have been a part of the environment too. They’re an integral component of this live art event, whether by way of real-time interactions with attendees, or from a historical and cultural consideration of our place in the canyon, with Indigenous connections to the land spanning millennia.

Creative catalysts are not static in time. They go back to the ice age and basaltic lava spread that birthed the canyon nine million years ago. They go back to ancestral knowledge of the Tagish First Nation. At the canyon, Tagish Kwan elder Shirley Adamson reflected on these spoken stories in her mother tongue, the surrounding environment inciting recollections stowed away in her memory. They spilled onto her canvas while painting her interpretation of the story The Daughters of the Sun. “In the ways of the people, it describes one element of the two volcanic eruptions of Mount Churchill in the Wrangell Range of Alaska that laid what is known today as the White River Ash over our homelands,” she wrote.

In 2017, French mixed media artist Gorellaume created the largest piece ever produced at Created at the Canyon. His landscape ink drawing depicted an otter in motion, undulating through the curvatures of the Yukon River. New to the Yukon at the time, Gorellaume took the event as an opportunity to interact with the locals, drawing from their knowledge of the area to help create his piece, which included First Nations stories about the elusive otter.

Local artist Nicole Bauberger has participated frequently in Created at the Canyon, with her first residency at the inaugural event in 2012. With her artistic background first grounded in oil painting, her medium of choice is now fluid and adaptive to the intricacies of the project at hand. One year at Created at the Canyon, she utilized volunteer passerby as models to mold transparent dress sculptures, mimicking chrysalises, before hanging them in a nearby tree.

One of the things that first drew her to Whitehorse in 1996 was the strong sense of community, arts, culture and support of artists that she found in the Yukon.
“This culture of supporting artists to do public interactions and consequently to be much more accessible and human and known, it creates the overall arts community,” said Bauberger. ”Having that element of human interaction with art, I think that’s really healthy and that’s something that Created at the Canyon offers, a chance for people to come across working artists and interact with them in an ad hoc and friendly sort of way.”

In 2019, Bauberger worked with local musicians Keitha Clark and Graeme Poile on a project called “Junctions,” a collaboration between the artists as well as with the public. Asking audience members for a phrase describing their impression of the canyon, they would write this on a note strung on a clothesline. These were then taken by the trio and turned into a piece of visual art or a musical composition while guests went for a hike and viewed other artists’ work.

“Being able to interact both with the environment as inspiration and the audience’s interpretation to influence what we were creating is such an engaging and wonderful process to be part of,” said Clark. “I really appreciate the opportunity that Created at the Canyon does to facilitate that.” Public interactions inspired by the event even led to two recorded songs on her most recently released album with Graeme Poile, “Now Is a Far Country.” The tracks “Wynne’s Tune” and “Sing Softly the River” both started with the seed of an attendee’s inspiration from Created at the Canyon. All album sales support the Community Outreach Van in Whitehorse.

To commemorate the 10 years of creativity with Created at the Canyon, this year Yukon Conservation Society will be calling for 10 artists rather than the usual six. Art pieces will then be exhibited at the Yukon Arts Centre for the month of August, and open to the public to enjoy.